I had to work during the Gatorade Duels yesterday, so without Facebook, Twitter and other social media, my exposure to the races was to stream the first duel during my lunch and try to catch up on the second race later.
As I got home from work and jumped onto Twitter in hopes of getting caught up, and lo and behold, there was a bunch of bitching going on. Ugh. Apparently Danica Patrick thanked NASCAR for installing the SAFER barrier that saved her from a serious injury after a humongous hit on the inside wall of the backstretch.
Talk about committing a Cardinal sin! Danica was drilled by the open wheel folks who thought she should have also added the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Hulman-George family and the University of Nebraska as well. After all, she can rattle off all of her sponsors that quickly, right?
This comes just a few months after Jimmie Johnson (according to the IndyCar fan translation) was quoted in the aftermath of the death of Dan Wheldon that open wheel cars should stop racing on ovals because it was too dangerous. Even though he came back and said it was an emotional response because he had lost a friend and didn't want to lose any more (which is a normal reaction given the circumstances) didn't matter, he was a pariah because he was either a) an IndyCar hater or b) too chicken or wife-whipped to get into an IndyCar himself.
People making emotional comments in a time of grief...who knew?
Now, some of what I'm saying is tounge in cheek, because a year ago I would have been piling on too. I was one of those people who got completely bent out of shape when NASCAR would talk about innovations like the SAFER barrier and the HANS device, all the while patting themselves on the back and taking credit. And I resented NASCAR for its popularity despite the fact that their on-track product isn't as good as IndyCar.
But you know what? Somewhere along the line I decided to get over it. Because just like the BS that went with the CART/IRL split, it's time. For way too long, I carried a chip on my shoulder about IndyCar being the red-headed stepchild to Cup, but lately I just decided to let it go.
I did it for a few reasons. First, from a pure racing standpoint I've come to the realization that I kind of like NASCAR, especially after I went to the Nationwide race at Joliet last summer. I like a lot of the drivers -- Tony Stewart (of course) and Johnson among them -- and hell, it's racing. Some of it is pretty good too.
Now, that's not to say that I have my issues. I could do without the WWE side of the sport: the competition cautions, green/white/checkers, boys have at it and the weekly contrived "feuds" that supposedly exist between the drivers. Now, I'm going to guess in a garage area of 45-odd drivers and crews, a few of them don't like each other, but seeing a bunch of buttoned-down corporate millionaires bitch slapping each other and calling it fights, or crashing each other just because they can just degrades the sport, in my opinion.
Some may argue that it just goes with the sport, and is a representation of the sport's roots. True, but so are beanballs to baseball and forearm shivers and clothesline tackles in football, but at some point someone realized they were stupid and dangerous and decided that they should stop.
Second, it's also because I am happy with the IndyCar series, so why should I waste time worrying about NASCAR? I live in Chicago and I am a Cubs fan. I go to White Sox games, and watch some on TV, but I don't spend hours obsessing about the Sox like some do because I'm too busy rooting for the Cubs. IndyCar has momentum, it has heightened fan interest and we are possibly entering a sort of golden age with the sport in terms of depths of fields and driver talent. So why should I worry about what is going on in NASCAR, or what they think of IndyCar? There is too much fun going on in IndyCar to worry about them, and if they haven't gotten the memo, they are missing out, not me.
And finally, the safety stuff. You know what? Who really cares? I think at this point the sport as a collective group have all contributed to an unprecedented level of safety at the top levels of the sport. And while I think IndyCar has always been proactive while Formula 1 and Cup were reactive following the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Dale Earnhardt, respectively, they are also the series that have the resources to continue developing higher safety standards. NASCAR's reasearch and development lab sets the standard in terms of crash analyzation and the steps that go from there to make the sport safer.
That was indicitive of Danica's crash yesterday, which was by far the hardest hit I had seen in a long time. To view it through the in-car camera she was totally protected and never in danger. And better yet, she climbed from the car. The fact is, the work of hundreds of people in many series over the course of several years contributed to her making it through that wreck unscathed so she can race again on Sunday. Ten years ago that wreck was a trip to the operating table or -- even worse -- a basilar skull fracture waiting to happen.
At this point my thought is, who cares who comes up with the ideas and who cares who takes credit for it? Whoever comes up with ideas or innovations that keep us from having to go through another day like last October, I'm all for it.
And for the record, was Danica wrong? Daytona is owned by NASCAR, which put up the safety barriers on the inside wall (before they did at Indy, by the way), so ergo, she was correct in thanking NASCAR for putting up the barrier.
A lot of my fellow bloggers have been writing about the IndyCar "haters", or the people that piss and moan about the slights that we preceive the series is getting. I'm on that bandwagon, too. I'm not one to say that IndyCar is perfect and that there aren't things that need to be made better, and I will continue to write about those things, but do we really have to have as much drama as we do?
The DW12 is a pig. Drama! Fact is, everyone involved is happy with the progress of the car and its development hasn't gone any differently than the development of any other car in the past. It's just no car has ever been developed with so much of a social presence. And now that the cars have been painted and have turbos under the cowling, they are kind of cool.
Not enough ovals. Drama! The series is dying because we are going the route of Champ Car! No, it is what is economically feasible for the series in 2012, later on down the road it should be a different story. Once a formula is found that will make ovals a profitable venture for all parties, more will be added to the schedule.
Sarah Fisher doesn't have an engine. Drama! I love Sarah to death and think she is one of the best things about IndyCar. I also hope that these issues can be worked out. But still, this is the business side of the sport, and yeah, it does suck, but the fact that SFHR doesn't have an engine shouldn't be considered a black mark on the series as a whole, or the indication that the series sucks because they cannot accomodate her team.
Too many foreign drivers. You all do realize that in 1993 the Indy 500 was won by a Brazilian, with a Dutch and British driver coming in second and third, right? And that the same Brit won the series title in a walk? And that in 15 of the last 32 years the Indy 500 pole has been captured by a foreign-born driver? Foreign drivers have been a part of the series since I started being a fan. Maybe the series isn't littered with Americans, but I'm really happy with the ones we have.
It's time to stop worrying about stuff, and to stop being so sensitive to what we perceive as a slight to IndyCar. Let the haters hate, let the uninformed remain, well, uninformed, and let's focus on what we can control, and that is supporting IndyCar and looking forward to what could be an incredible 2012 season. I know that the Dan Wheldon tragedy aside, 2011 far exceeded my expectations, and I don't doubt 2012 will do the same.